Infodumping is the number one cause of readers skimming a story.
It causes the story to drone on and on, explaining everything and leaving nothing to the imagination.
It tells the readers things they already know, either from the story or common knowledge.
And bores the readers by repeating information and not allowing them to connect to the story or the characters.
Readers want to anticipate what’s to come and be satisfied they were right or surprised when it’s actually something else.
They don’t want to be told what an airport looks like in great detail when it has nothing to do with the story.
We’ve all seen one, either in person or on TV. So, we’re capable of forming our own image of it.
If someone died earlier in the story, we don’t need to be reminded of every detail of their death.
Too much information can stop a story’s pace in its tracks.
Whereas the lack of it can cause the reader to keep reading dying to know the answer.
Infodumps are nothing but summarization… of facts, events, time, etc.
Things the reader already knows from the story or are just plain common sense.
I read a book recently where the characters were on the run trying to piece together a mystery without getting themselves killed before they could expose their enemy’s secrets to the world.
This involved them doing a lot of research on the Internet and at libraries, in addition to visiting historical sites.
It was cool to hear all the intricate details they uncovered each time.
The only problem was the research on the Internet was done by a friend who they kept in contact with through a burner phone.
So, every time they needed something looked up, they would recount everything they learned to the other person.
Sometimes this was done through actual dialogue and sometimes through breaks between saying they explained about this or that before leading once again back into the dialogue.
It was a lot like hearing it all over again in a condensed form.
I found myself skimming over a lot of those sections because I already knew all of it.
There wasn’t anything new there for me to get interested.
Yes, in real life, the researcher might need to know all the details to function.
However, infodumping can kill the tension and suspense of a story and lead to a reader skimming.
There were no questions, no surprises in the scene. All the answers were handed to me.
There was nothing new to learn, and all their plans were laid out before the action even happened.
I knew every step the characters were going to make before they even made a move.
And since the story was told from multiple POV, including the villain’s, there were no plot twists.
It was hard to get involved in the conflict and stakes because I simply couldn’t develop a connection to the characters.
I just couldn’t put myself in their place and experience the story through their eyes.
There was no time to worry about what “might” happen to the characters because it was all laid out there for me beforehand.
Every move, every motivation was explained ahead of time. Leaving nothing for me to figure out.
Now don’t get me wrong, I liked this book.
It had some interesting theories about our history and how people might interpret the same information differently.
But that’s all it was: interesting information.
The plot itself was just too predictable.
Learn some information, evade the bad guy, repeat… and a mystery spanning hundreds of years was suddenly solved within a week.
Not by a historian or treasure hunter, but by a lawyer and an amateur.
But as much as I like learning new things, especially when it comes to history, I find it much more fun to predict what’s coming.
Whether I’m right or wrong, it doesn’t matter.
I just want to guess, to put myself in the character’s shoes, and feel a part of the story. Like I’m really there.
Don’t steal that from your readers.
Let them experience life through the character’s eyes. You might just find a dedicated fan.
FOR FURTHER READING
Renea strives to help writers develop the focus and skills they need to finish their first novel, offering writers practical writing advice they can apply one step at a time.
She is the author of Conquering Writing Pressures: Living a Balanced Writing Life in a Busy World where she helps writers find the courage to accept life will never be perfect. And if we want our dreams to succeed, we must fight to make them a reality.
She currently lives in St. Joseph, Missouri, with her husband Joe, her three children, and her five lovable furballs.
From a young age, Renea was mad for books and reading, and especially loved Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series, which she read in the ninth grade.
She is an avid reader, with her main interests residing in history, mythology, and fantasy, along with some romance and science fiction in her earlier years.
When Renea’s not writing, she enjoys genealogy, role-playing games, and dreams of traveling the world. In a past life, she plucked chickens and milked cows.